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Raising Readers is our community’s countywide local Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation — grade-level reading by the end of third grade.

Research shows that proficiency in reading by the end of third grade enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn, and to master the more complex subject matter they encounter in the fourth grade curriculum. Most students who fail to reach this critical milestone falter in the later grades and often drop out before earning a high school diploma.

The Raising Readers initiative is looking at three factors to help our students become proficient readers by third grade: School Readiness, School Attendance, and Summer Learning. School Readiness is supporting families and young children in the early years. We are working with the school districts, preschool programs, and the community to ensure our youngest learners are enrolled in high-quality programming and are registering on-time for Kindergarten.

School Attendance is supporting families and students during the school year. We are working with school districts on an attendance initiative called “Be There”. “Be There” encourages students to come to school every day ready to learn. School staff are also reaching those students who are chronically absent, missing 10% or more of the school year, to connect and encourage daily attendance. Summer Learning is supporting families and students over the summer months. The “summer slide” is what often happens to disadvantaged children during the summer months. They tread water at best or even fall behind, while higher-income children build their skills steadily over the summer months. Teachers then spend the first quarter of the school year re-teaching material from the previous school year.


  • 34,975 kindergarten registration flyers distributed in 2019
  • 500 kindergarten readiness toolkits created and distributed in 2019
  • “Be There” Attendance initiative launched at five community schools
  • 5,000 summer slide bookmarks distributed in 2019
  • Summer Slide social media blasts during National Summer Learning Week


The Campaign was founded in 2010 by three partners: America's Promise Alliance; Council for a Strong America: Mission Readiness; and, United Way Worldwide. It was developed in response to Leila Fiester's Early Warning: Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters. This study was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which continues to be the research partner for the Campaign.

The Campaign launched in 2012 with 124 charter communities. The ultimate goal is to have more than 12 states increase by at least 100% the number of low-income children reading proficiently by the end of third grade by the year 2020. The focus for 2016-2020 is "moving the needle." The implementation partners for the Campaign are the National Summer Learning Association and Attendance Works (United Way Worldwide is part of the latter). The Smarter Learning Group provides technical assistance to members in the Network.

Currently, there are more than 300 communities in 42 states across the nation, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with 2,300 local organizations and 250+ state and local funders, including 130 United Ways.


Every community develops its own strategy through the development of a "Community Solutions Action Plan (CSAP)." The CSAP includes a community overview, explanation of the current situation, desired outcomes, a strategy for implementation, data collection, and a plan for sustainability.

Three subcommittees address the focus areas of the CSAP:

  • Increasing the number of children ready for school
  • Increasing the number of children attending school on a regular basis
  • Increasing the number of children engaged in summer learning

Although schools must be accountable for helping all children achieve, providing effective teaching for all children in every classroom every day, the Campaign is based on the belief that schools cannot succeed alone. Engaged communities mobilized to remove barriers, expand opportunities, and assist parents in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities to serve as full partners in the success of their children are needed to assure student success.

Download Erie County's CSAP

Why Erie?

We all know the research around literacy and success in school and beyond. Unfortunately, for some schools in our community, more than 75% of the children are NOT reading proficiently at the end of third grade.

In December 2017, Erie County submitted a comprehensive CSAP to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and has been accepted as an active member of this national initiative. Through the implementation of this CSAP, the many pockets of work and resources that exist in the community supporting early literacy and success in school will be strategically coordinated.

United Way will act as the backbone organization but will rely on the many partners and subject matter experts in the community to effect increased third-grade reading proficiency.


There are currently seven active communities in PA:

  • Erie
  • Lehigh Valley
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh/Allegheny County
  • Reading/Berks County
  • Wilkes-Barre/Wyoming Valley
  • Scranton/Lackawanna County

All PA active communities are led by United Way except one. Statewide partners include United Way of PA and Pennsylvania Department of Education.

A strong network is emerging across the state:

  • Quarterly meetings
  • Sharing of best practices
  • Advocating for state policy
  • Bi-monthly calls


Learn More at

Attendance vs. Truancy Information Sheet